The Future of Distribution

Matt and I were at the Public Radio Engineering Conference this year for discussions of RF interference, HD Radio, and the soon-to-launch ContentDepot. While most of the conversation focused on immediate concerns of station engineers and operations personnel, the last presentation of the conference addressed some forward-thinking issues in the emerging digital distribution landscape. Scott Hanley, GM of WDUQ and chair of the Public Radio Satellite System’s Distribution/Interconnection committee discussed “The Future of ContentDepot” and new online channels in general.

There was a striking lack of discussion about related issues throughout the rest of PREC. Many station staff members have enough work just keeping up with immediate broadcast needs, nevermind online distribution channels that are still taking shape. On the other hand, the rapid emergence of podcasting over the last year has shown just how quickly these technologies are taking hold. The discussion of a “digital backend” for public broadcasting sprouted at this year’s Integrated Media Association conference and has continued alongside NPR’s New Realities meetings that wrap up today.

As the worlds of Station Engineers and IT staff converge, there is perhaps a need for more cross-pollination of experimentation, planning, and investment. Scott pointed out that the Public Radio Satellite System is a remarkable phenomenon in which a highly diverse set of stakeholders have managed to work together on a system that benefits the industry as a whole. It would certainly make sense to leverage the system’s existing infrastructure, and At IMA some suggested developing a “PRSS for the Internet.” Such a thing would inevitably involve business and policy negotiation, meaning that participation of General Managers and Program Director is critical to the success as well.

PRX is an active part of this conversation, and we hope that lessons we’ve learned in the past three years can be instructive in the process. There are several aspects of this yet-to-be-defined entity that resonate with PRX’s principles of open systems, web-based ease of use, technology innovation, and online marketplace. Scott’s presentation helped highlight the issues, and we look forward to continuing the discussion.

Some sample slides:

Download the PPT